What Is Right Action?
New York City
3rd Public Talk 15th March, 1935
I think most of us are trying to find out what is true happiness, for without being intelligently happy, life becomes very superficial, futile, and rather dreary. And so, in search of what we call happiness, we go from one experience to another, from one belief to another, from one theory to another, until we find such beliefs, such ideas, as give us satisfaction. Now these satisfactions are but escapes. The very search for happiness must result in a series of escapes: it may be, as I said, through authority. through sensation, through the mere multiplication of experiences, and the increase of power. These escapes become standards or values by which we cover up conflict.
After all, when you are conscious of conflict, there is disturbance which creates unhappiness; and to escape from that unhappiness you seek various experiences and develop certain values, standards, measures, which become your escape. So gradually you become unconscious of all except those standards, those patterns, and your life is nothing else man a living imitation of these values which you have established in your search for happiness.
If you examine, you will see that your mind and heart are held in a series of standards or values. Being so bound, mind is always giving further values, establishing further standards, and is ever sitting in judgment. Until the mind frees itself from this continual process of attributing values, it is never fresh, new; never creatively empty, if I may use that word without being misunderstood. For in creative emptiness alone is there the birth of truth.
Conflict, suffering, is the process of breaking up this habit of attributing values. You have a set of values established through experience, through tradition, and these values have become your guides; with these past standards and values you approach a fresh experience, which must naturally create a conflict. This suffering is nothing else than the breaking up of old values to which the mind clings.
Now it is the very essence of stupidity to escape from conflict through a series of established values, or through forming a new set of values. The very essence of intelligence is to understand life or experience with an unburdened mind and heart, anew, afresh.
Instead of meeting life without any preconceived demands, you come to it with a mind and heart already prejudiced, almost incapable of swift adjustment, quick pliability. The lack of this instantaneous discernment of the movement of life creates sorrow. Conflict is the indication of bondage, which cannot be conquered, but whose significance must be understood. All conquering of obstacles through a new set of values is but another form of escape.
You might say that a mind which does not give values is really the mind of a primitive. It is true in one sense; the primitive meets life unconsciously, incompletely, without understanding its significance fully. But to meet life completely and to understand its significance fully, requires a mind that is unconditioned by the past, and this can come about only through intense awareness, through discernment. This demands, unlike the mind of the primitive, integrate action in the present without the urge of fear or the search for a reward. It is the intelligence of complete aloneness.
It is only when the unburdened and vulnerable mind and heart meet life, the unknown, the immeasurable, that there is the ecstasy of truth. When the mind is not burdened with values, with memories, with preconceived beliefs, and is able to meet the unknown, in that meeting there is born wisdom, the bliss of the present. So conflict is the very process of awakening man to full consciousness; and if we are not continually aware, we create a series of escapes which we call values, though they may be changing, and through those values we try to find happiness.
Values become the medium of escape. A mind that is in conflict and meets it without trying to interpret that conflict according to certain values becomes fully, completely aware. Then that mind and that heart shall awaken to the reality of life, the bliss of the present.
Question: Do you advocate renunciation and self-abnegation as a means of finding personal happiness?
Krishnamurti: Personal happiness does not exist. So there are no means to it. There is only the creative ecstasy of life, whose expressions are many. This idea of sacrifice, renunciation, self-abnegation, is false. You think that happiness is to be found through giving up certain things, following certain actions. So you are really trading in, exchanging your sacrifice, your abnegation, for happiness. There is no abnegation or renunciation, but only understanding; and in that there is creative happiness which is not personal, individualistic.
Let me put it differently. I begin to accumulate because I think happiness lies through accumulation, but I find at the end of a certain time that possession does not bring me happiness. Therefore I begin to renounce possessions and try to possess and pursue abnegation; which is only another form of acquisitiveness. But if I discern the inherent significance of possessiveness, then in that there is creative happiness.
Question: Isn't it true that the essential can be found in all the phases of life, in everything?
Krishnamurti: I do not think that there is the essential or the unessential. What is the essential? What is the unessential? One day I want a thing and that becomes the most essential, the most important, and in the very possession of it, it has become the un, essential. Then I want some other thing; and so I go on, moving from one essential which becomes the unessential, to another essential which in its turn becomes the unessential.
In other words, where there is a craving there can never be lasting discernment. As most people are slaves to craving, they are in constant conflict of the essential and the unessential. From possessiveness merely of things, which no longer gives satisfaction, you move to mental and emotional possession of virtues, of truth, of God. From things, which were once essential, you have moved "forward" to abstraction. This abstraction becomes the essential.
Can't we look at life, not from this point of view of the essential and the unessential, but from that which is intelligent, compre- hensive? Why have we this division of the essential and the unessential, the important and the unimportant? Because we are always thinking in terms of acquisition, gain; but if we look at it from the point of view of understanding, then this division ceases, then we are meeting life continually as a whole. This is one of the most difficult things to do, because we have been and are being trained in religious and economic systems which impose certain sets of values. To a mind that is really not attributing values but is trying to live completely, without the desire of gain, to such a mind there are no degrees of changing values, and therefore there is no conflict between the impermanent and the permanent, between the stationary, and the constant movement of life.
Question: It is all right for you to talk about fundamental things of life, but what about the ordinary man?
Krishnamurti: What are we discussing? We are discussing, as far as I am concerned, how to live intelligently, and therefore divinely, humanly; not with this competitive, ruthless brutality of acquisitiveness, of exploitation, whether by a class or by a teacher, economic or religious. All this applies, naturally, to us all, that is to the ordinary man. I do not segregate myself from the average, from the ordinary man. People who are concerned about the ordinary man have separated themselves from him. They are concerned about the average man. Why? They say, "I can give up tradition, but what about the man in the street? If he gives it up, there will be chaos." So he must have a tradition, while the people who are concerned about him need not.
Now if you are not thinking in terms of distinctions, either of class or of needs, if you discern the significance of a thing in itself, then you will help that man in the street to free himself without imposition from, let us say, tradition. That is, if you are convinced of the futility of tradition, if you see the significance of it, then you will naturally help the other without imposition, without exploitation. In understanding the fundamental things of life intelligently, you will help the other to extricate himself from this cruel chaos.
If we, all of us here, really felt deeply about these things, really understood, we should act with intelligence. First, surely, one must begin with oneself. One must deal with the fundamental things because they are the simplest; and in a civilization that is becoming more and more complex, if we don't understand for ourselves these simple and fundamental things, we shall but add to the confusion, exploitation and ignorance.
So what we are discussing applies to everyone, and as you have the opportunity, which, unfortunately, not everyone has, if you become conscious, aware, and begin to understand and therefore act, such action will help to dispel ignorance, the cause of suffering.
Question: How can one cope with memory and the obsession of its pictures?
Krishnamurti: First of all, by understanding how memory is formed, how it is created. Now, as I tried to explain the other day, memory is nothing else than incompleted action. I am not including in that the capacity to recall incidents. But memory is the residue, the scar of action which has not been completely lived or completely understood. Till that action is wholly understood, the memory of it or scar on the mind continues. The mind is mostly the residue or the scars of many incompleted, unfulfilled actions. If one is class conscious or if one is religiously prejudiced, naturally one cannot meet experience wholly, completely; one approaches it with this bias, which creates inevitably a conflict. As long as one does not understand the cause and the significance of that conflict, completely, wholly, there must be further scars or barriers as memories. In that conflict, if one merely escapes or seeks substitutions, then memory as a barrier must be continually perverting the completeness of understanding, which alone is the fulfillment of action. I hope I am not explaining it in very complicated language.
For instance, suppose a man born in India has certain religious prejudices. With these perversions of thought, he approaches life. Naturally he does not discern its full significance, because he is always looking at life through these perversions, and therefore there must be conflict. From this he develops a series of self-defensive memories, barriers, which he calls values. Such defensive reactions must further pervert the comprehension of experience or of life.
When one fully realizes that prejudice or any other perversion is continually corrupting, twisting, the fullness of understanding, then one begins to be aware; in that awareness one discovers the hindrances. It is only through the flame of awareness, through full consciousness, not through self-analysis, that one can discern the prejudices, the escapes, the self-defensive values which are continually twisting experience. In the very fullness of experience itself are the barriers against discernment to be discovered and understood, and not through intellectual self-analysis or self-dissection. If you are intensely aware in the fullness of experience, then you will see how the perversions, impediments, limitations, spring forth.
If the mind and heart can free themselves from these values, which are but memories stored up for self-defensive purposes, that you have inherited or acquired, then life is an eternal becoming. But that requires, as I said, great purposefulness, an incessant inquiry into the cause and significance of suffering, conflict. If you are sitting at ease with life, or merely seeking satisfaction, the bliss of the eternal present is not for you. It is only in moments of great crisis, great conflict, that the mind frees itself from all these self-protective accumulations and accretions. Then only is there the ecstasy of life, truth.
Question: If everyone gave up all possessions, as you suggest, what would happen to all business and the ordinary pursuits of life? Are not business and possessions necessary if we are to live in the world?
Krishnamurti: I have never said give up. I have said that acquisitiveness is the cause of competition, of exploitation, of class distinctions, of wars and so on. Now if one discerns the real significance of possessiveness, whether of things or of people or of ideas, which is ultimately the craving for power in different forms, if the mind can free itself from that, then there can be intelligent happiness and well-being in the world. We have through many centuries built up a system of acquisitiveness, of possessiveness, seeking personal power and authority. Now as long as that exists in our hearts and minds, we may change the system momentarily through revolution, through crisis, through wars, but as long as that craving exists, it will inevitably lead, in another form, to the old system. And, as I said, the freedom from acquisitiveness is not to be learned eventually, through postponement; it must be discerned immediately, and that is where the difficulty lies. If we cannot see the falseness of possessiveness immediately, we shall then not be able individually, and therefore collectively, to have a different civilization, a different way of living.
So my whole attack, if I may use that word, is not on any system, but on that desire for possessiveness, acquisitiveness, leading finally to power.
You think now possessiveness gives happiness. But if you think about it deeply, you will see that this craving for power has no end. It is a continual struggle in which there is no cessation of conflict, suffering. But it is one of the most difficult things, to free the mind and heart from acquisitiveness.
You know, in India we have certain people called sannyasis, who leave the world in search of truth. They have generally two loin cloths, the one they put on, and one for the next day. A sannyasi in search of truth, sought various teachers. In his wanderings he was told that a certain king was enlightened, that he was teaching wisdom. So this sannyasi went to the king. You can see the contrast between the king and the sannyasi: the king who had everything, palaces, jewels, courtiers, power; and the sannyasi who had only two loin cloths. The king instructed him concerning truth. One day, while the king was teaching him, the palace caught fire. Serenely the king continued with his teaching, while the sannyasi, that holy man, was greatly disturbed because his other loin cloth was burning.
You know, you are all in that position. You may not be possessive with regard to clothes, houses, friends, but there is some hidden pursuit of gain to which you are attached, to which you cling, which is eating your hearts and minds away. As long as these unexplored, hidden poisons exist, there must be continual conflict, suffering.
Question: You say that you are affiliated with no organization, yet obviously you are trying to make people think along certain lines. Can the world thought be changed without an organization whose purpose it is to bring your ideas constantly before the public?
Krishnamurti: I wonder if I am making you think along a certain definite line. I hope not. I am trying to show that thinking is necessary, being in love is necessary; and to think deeply and to be greatly in love, you cannot have a storehouse of self-defensive reactions or memories. Surely when you are in love, you are vulnerable. If I am only making you think along certain lines, then please beware of me, because then I will force you and thus exploit you, and you will exploit me for your own various ends.
What I am saying is that to live greatly, to think creatively, one must be completely open to life, without any self-protective reaction, as you are when you are in love. So you must be in love with life. This requires great intelligence, not information or knowledge, but that great intelligence which is awakened when you meet life openly, completely, when the mind and heart are utterly vulnerable to life,
You ask, "Can the world thought be changed without an organization whose purpose it is to bring your ideas constantly before the public?" Naturally not, you must have an organization; that is obvious. So we need not discuss it. But when you talk about organization, I think you mean quite a different thing. To convert people to certain beliefs, to force them, to urge them through opinion, through pressure, to adopt a certain method, certain ideas - for that purpose most organizations are formed, not merely for printing books and distributing them. That is how all religions are formed. That is how the followers destroy the teachers, by making their teachings into absolute dogmas which become the authority for exploitation. For that purpose, organization of the wrong kind is necessary. Whereas, if you are interested in these ideas which I am explaining, you will naturally help to print and to distribute books, but without the desire to convert, to exploit.
Question: Even after they have passed beyond the need of organized authority, most people are troubled with the inner conflict of choice between desire and fear. Can you explain how to distinguish, or what you consider true desire?
Krishnamurti: Is there such a thing as true desire? The essential desire and the unessential desire? One day you want a hat, another day a car, and so on, satisfying your cravings. Yet another day you want to attain the highest truth or God. You pass through a whole series of desires. What is the essential in all this? Things are essential; love is essential; the understanding of truth is essential. So why separate desire into false and true, important and unimportant? Can't you look at it differently, meet desire intelligently? Your minds are so crippled with contradictory values that you cannot discern truly.
I wonder if I am explaining this. Suppose you are possessive. Don't say to yourself, "Well, I have heard this afternoon that I mustn't be possessive, so I will get rid of that desire." Don't develop a contradictory resistance. If you are possessive, be completely and wholly aware of it; then you will see what happens. The mind must free itself from this contradictory desire, the comparative desire which is really a self-protective reaction against suffering; then you will discern the whole significance of acquisitiveness. You can only understand acquisitiveness, or any other problem, in its isolation, not by bringing it into comparison, into opposition. When there is no contradictory or opposite desire, then only is there the discernment of the true significance of desire. The continual contradiction in desire creates fear, and where there is fear, there must be escape. And so there ensues a ceaseless battle between desire, reason, the urge for fulfillment, and their opposites.
In this battle, intelligence, true fulfillment, is wholly lost. As long as mind is caught up in the conflict of opposites, there can be only an escape, a substitution as the essential and the unessential, the false and the true. In this there is no creative happiness.
Question: Are there not times when one needs to separate oneself from outward confusion to aid in the realization of true self?
Krishnamurti: If you put needs first, then they become your masters and intelligence is destroyed. To find out your needs requires intelligence, for needs are constantly changing, constantly renewing themselves. But if you set out to find exactly what your needs are, and having discovered them you limit yourself to those needs, then your life will become very superficial, narrow, small.
So in the same way, if you are seeking solitude merely in order to find out what truth is, then solitude becomes only a means of escape. But in your search during your active life there come naturally periods of solitude. These moments of solitude then are not false; they are natural, spontaneous. Question: You said on Monday that to have true intelligence, one must have passed through a state of great aloneness. Is this the only way of arriving at true intelligence?
Krishnamurti: Let us consider what we do now. We are seeking security, constantly hedging ourselves in with certainties. Whenever there comes a state of utter uncertainty, doubt, we take immediate flight from it. So we have established comforting securities, certainties. Please think it over and you will see that this is so. And it is only when you are stripped of all hope, in the sense of security, certainty, only when you are completely naked, stripped of all protective measures and reactions, that there is the ecstasy of truth. In those moments of complete aloneness, which only comes when all escapes and their significance have been truly discerned, is there the blessedness of the present.